How to Clean the tops of Kitchen Cabinets

Instead of “How to Clean the Tops of Greasy Kitchen Cabinets”, this post really should be called “The Horror That Lies Above” because that’s exactly what was I found. You see, this is an area that I don’t clean on a regular schedule. I think I mentally put it off because I know how icky it gets. All that dust that’s mixed in with cooking grease =  sticky gross gunk. The only reason I even made it up there was because I was hanging some decorative plates above the cabinets. 

Now, if you’re faint of heart, easily grossed out, squeamish, or faint easily…don’t scroll down.

I’m giving you fair warning!

Are you ready for the horror? 

*Cue the horror music* Here it comes….

Greasy Kitchen Cabinets

EEEEeeeewwwwww!!!!! So GROSS, right?!

I was so mortified, that I immediately sent my hubby to the store to fetch me some heavy duty grease cleaner and went to work.  I also tested a natural way to clean this greasy gunk off using only vinegar and baking soda, which was something I’ve seen done on Pinterest. Here’s what I did.

How To Clean The Tops Of Greasy Kitchen Cabinets

Supplies (chemical way):

Supplies (natural way):

Chemical Cleaning

For the chemical way of cleaning, I used Fantastik’s Scrubbing Bubbles Heavy Duty All Purpose Cleaner. I am not sponsored, nor was I compensated for this post. This is just what the hubby brought home from the store and what I used.

How to clean the tops of greasy kitchen cabinets

  1. Don’t faint. Generously spray the tops of the cabinets with your chosen heavy duty cleaner. Let it sit for a few minutes.
  2. Get some paper towels and an old credit card/store card or anything with a sturdy straight edge. Begin to scrape off the sticky greasy gunk. Use the paper towel to wipe off the gunk from the card. Continue to do this until the entire top of the cabinet is clean. *Tip- using a plastic card makes it so much easier to scrape off the gunk. Much faster than trying to wipe it up.*
  3. Spray once more and give the cabinets a final wipe down.
  4. To prevent having greasy gunk build-up, cut and lay some type of paper on the tops of the cabinets (wax paper, wrapping paper, cut cereal boxes, etc…)

Lay Paper on cabinets It’s not pretty, but it will help prevent greasy build up on the cabinets. Just change out the paper when needed.

Natural Cleaning

After using a chemical heavy duty cleaner, I wondered if just using vinegar and baking soda would be able to cut through the sticky greasy gunk. So, I poured some vinegar onto the top of one of the cabinets and sprinkled some baking soda on top. It immediately began to fizz and I could see some of the greasy begin to appear in the bubbles.

How to clean the tops of kitchen cabinets with vinegar & baking soda

  1. Generously spray vinegar onto the cabinet tops and let this set for a minute or two. Sprinkle baking soda on top. Start scrubbing while the vinegar and baking soda is bubbling. Once it stops bubbling, you just have ‘water’, so scrub while the mixture is actively bubbling. Another option would be to make a baking soda paste with just water and baking soda. This will require some scrubbing, but the baking soda will help scrub off the grime. *Tip – Do not pour vinegar onto the top of the cabinet. I did this and some of the vinegar seeped down into my cabinet and made a small mess. Use a spray bottle to spray the vinegar onto your cabinet tops.*
  2. Get some paper towels and an old credit card/store card or anything with a strong straight edge. Begin to scrape off the sticky greasy gunk. Use the paper towel to wipe off the gunk from the card. Continue to do this until the entire top of the cabinet is clean.
  3. Wipe down again with straight vinegar until all the grit from the baking soda is gone.
  4. To prevent having greasy gunk build-up, cut and lay some type of paper on the tops of the cabinets (wax paper, wrapping paper, cut cereal boxes, etc…)

UPDATE: I’ve had a lot of people asking me which method I prefer better, the natural or chemical way. Both methods clean off the grime very well using the plastic card to scrape it off. So really, it is up to you which method you use. The only real difference is that the baking soda way does require wiping down the cabinet a little more to remove the gritty baking soda.

Glad you made it this far without fainting 🙂  How to Clean the Tops of Greasy Kitchen Cabinets

When was the last time you cleaned the tops of your kitchen cabinets? What are your tips/tricks to keeping this area clean?

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  1. Awesome advice, thanks for those tips! I was planning on putting all my small appliances up there and just didn’t really know where to start in the cleaning process. The only thing now is, all my appliances will get that buildup on them. 🙁 Any tips on that conundrum? Although they would probably be a lot easier to clean then the cabinet itself.

    1. I’m so glad this helped. I have some things above my cabinet too. If you don’t care about aesthetics and I’m assuming you aren’t planning on using these appliances on a regular, you can use plastic wrap to cover/wrap around appliances. I used plastic wrap to cover the opening of our cotton candy maker so that it wouldn’t get greasy and dirty inside. Another option would be to sew matching covers to place over the appliances.

  2. This is the most amazing cleaning tip that I have ever used! I sprayed Fantastik kitchen cleaner, let it set for 10 minutes as directed, then easily scrapped the yuck with a 4 1/2 inch putty knife. It’s a great feeling knowing that even the hidden parts of the kitchen are clean. Thank you!

  3. Thanks for this post! I’m reading this while stuck at home with my kids during the Coronavirus quarantine. With everyone at home, I’ve decided to deep clean my kitchen and I’m glad I came across this post because my cabinets were filthy. I followed your instructions and got them so clean, I was shocked! I’ve been reading all kinds of of cabinet cleaning blogs to help me with cleaning my cabinets, but this has by far been one of the most helpful!

  4. I tried soap and water, and some spray degreaser which didn’t really work. What worked though was some orange hand cleaner – the kind mechanics use. Made quick work of it!

  5. Just wondering. We keep covered baskets on top of the cabinets for storing pasta and bulk spices. These get filthy with the same grime as the top of the cabinet. Any ideas on the best way to clean the baskets. Don’t want to throw them out.
    Thank you so much.

  6. Thanks! Unfortunately, I cleaned mine the hard way already but I will put your idea to use on the top of my kitchens half wall that is dirty/greasy. Hopefully, I’ll be able to paint it after! I used Glad Press’n Seal Food Plastic Wrap (clear) on my cabinets because the tops can be seen going down the stairs. It also sticks to tops which keeps it in place when I put/remove items! 😉

  7. Your blog on cleaning grease off the top of kitchen cabinets really saved me a lot of grief! I also appreciate how you tried both the chemical & natural method.I chose the natural method because fumes trigger my lungs to easily. It didn’t seem it was all that much effort to wipe the baking soda at all, for anyone who was wondering. What I really wanted to share is my accidental discovery. I decided to put down parchment paper to cover the tops of my cabinets per your recommendation. I did find that the parchment paper was a hassle. It has to be cut well and it’s not very malleable so it’s hard to work with. I didn’t have time to cut and measure perfectly. I thought tin foil would be very bendable and quick. Not only was it easy to work with, I didn’t have to measure or wrestle with it, I have decorative items on top of my cabinets. When I put the tin foil up there, it’s reflective qualities makes it look like I have fancy back lighting to showcase my items. Thanks for sharing your method.

    1. Tin foil is a great idea! It will help reflect more light from my string of lights I have up there. I am so glad I found this article because I’m cleaning above my cabinets today.

  8. Le sigh, We are in the process of renovating and I know that I need to pay extra attention to the tops of my cabinets but I wasn’t sure exactly how until now!
    Would this work on the top of my microwave too?

  9. Thanks for this great hint with photos. I started prepping my kitchen walls and ceiling before painting and was horrified to see the inches of greasy gunk up there. I hadn’t looked up there since moving into this apartment four years ago, and it looks like nobody else did either in the 30 years this apartment complex has been sitting here. I will get to work on the cabinet tops as soon as the prep paint dries on the walls. I’m glad I got this info before having my handyman come to install a new kitchen light. I would have been so embarrassed to have anyone see that mess up there.

  10. We’re running out of storage space and I recently purchased beautiful baskets to set atop the deeper cabinets in my kitchen. After spending so much on these natural baskets, I couldn’t stomach setting them on at least a decade of grease. This is by far the grossest thing I’ve ever done… and Pinterventures’s advice made it so EASY. I opted for Scrubbing Bubbles/chemicals because I have extra laying around the apartment. The pictures of this method are VERY accurate. I used an old debit card, but later wished I had one of those wide scraping tools that painters and masons use; it would have sped things up. Per the advice, LET THE SOLUTION soak on the grease for some time. I opted for 10 minutes. My cabinet tops are so clean that I’m now storing my larger crockpot and kitchenaid mixer there, knowing that pulling these down 2-3x/month will eliminate grease accumulation on my beloved appliances. I plan to take a sponge and solution to the tops semi-annually to maintain the hard work I put in. THANK YOU for sharing this gross yet brilliant option for cleaning cabinet tops.

  11. Scrapping off the gunk with a card works much faster.Also baking soda and vinegar cleaning action surprised me.Very informative article.Waiting for next post.Keep it up man!

  12. Wow! I skeptically just tried this with a cleaner i bought and it worked like a charm! The secret really is the credit card scraping.

      1. Thank you for the Great info. I’ve been dreading this.
        1 question though because my horrific cabinet tops are so full of dust on top of the 7 or so layers of grime . Should I remove the dust 1st? Or can I just do as you’ve done ?

  13. Have you tried washing with a thin paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. It works well on grime. Vinegar is acidic so might not be good for stone or wooden surfaces. The reaction between vinegar and baking soda erodes a little of the underlying wood.

  14. Thank you! Worked. Never would have thought of using basically bathroom cleaner. But it was otherwise not coming clean.

  15. Thank you so much for your advice!
    I have just moved into an old renovator that has been terribly neglected.
    Take your before photos and times the filth, grease and dirt x 10. I am actually ready to tear the cabinets down.
    Tonight I will try your methods and see how we go.

  16. It’s such a great and efficient tips! I just finished the thorough cleaning of my kitchen and the last thing I did was to clean the tops of all cabinets – everything looks much better now 🙂 After the big cooking sessions during the holidays, my kitchen looked like it hasn’t been cleaned for years, although I made a deep clean just in the beginning of December. The idea with the cart was great and I’m definitely sharing your post with some friends. Thank you for this useful tip and have a great year!

  17. Thank you for the tips. My New Years resolution is to get the top of those kitchen cabinets clean. I’m going to try your tips. There’s hope now that they won’t be a gunky mess in 2016.

  18. worked like a freakin charm! i was completely flabbergasted! thanks!!!! nothing else would even touch the disgusting grime. The tops of the cabinets haven’t been cleaned since 1997….completely revolting!

  19. Thank you for the great instructions! Was dreading doing mine with visions of hours of scrubbing. Following your instructions i set about all the tops my cabinets today (and they were pretty gunky ) anyway did what you did and an hour and a half later I have sparkly clean cabinets! I ended up using a shop bought cleaner and a plastic artex scraper as had them to hand but I know bicarb and vinegar is pretty wonderful stuff so I’ll be maintaining with that in the future.
    Thanks again!
    Rachelle x

  20. Thanks for the thorough, insightful guidance on how to tackle this nasty project. At least you made it something to look forward to, with the anticipation of getting rid of that awful looking mess, once and for all!

    Thank you for posting this info on line.
    It made a huge difference for me.
    Just moved into new apartment that is pre-war bldg & the top of kitchen cabinets were SO very GROSS which made that space unusable, functionally or decoratively.

    After reading your info & applying your techniques, I was able to clean my cabinet tops & I am thrilled w/the results. The for posting. I don’t usually post, but I’m so grateful that I feel I must.

    BTW, I used a scraper from local Home Depot (not credit Card).


  22. I’ve tried it yesterday and I must admit the effect is immediate and just amazing! I recommend it! Hopefully more people will read this post, it’s really worth you time people!

  23. I have used The Victorian House Finish Rejuvenator for over 25 years for cleaning the greasy buildup on cabinets, antiques, floors, doors and all the wood in my home and told everyone I know about the product. It was only available in antique stores years ago but now its online. Its manufactured in Oklahoma..makes it even better since thats where I am from. It was invented for removing white rings and faded areas from antiques but works for All wood. Hope this helps you out.

  24. Luckily our cabinets go all the way to the ceiling, so I don’t have to clean these. Even if they didnt, I don’t know that I would have thought to clean there. What an insightful post. Pinning. Thanks for linking to Tips & Tricks. I can’t wait to see what you link up next. 🙂

  25. These are great tips, I also experience cleaning that kind of mess. Thank you for sharing this one it helps me a lot to know what to do in cleaning that kind of grease.

  26. Wow!!!! This is awesome. And I wish I would have known about this when we moved into our house in June. It was DISGUSTING. And I spent hours trying to clean everything up. It was nasty. Thanks so much for linking up at Come Along Ponds.

  27. This is such great advice and I think “The Horror That Lies Above” would adequately describe the tops of my supposed-to-be-white-kitchen-cabinets.

    Thanks for sharing with our #ThrowbackThursdayLinkup. Pinned to our Linky board and will pin to my Green Cleaning board too.

  28. Thank you so much for linking up with us at Home Matters Linky #1. This is an excellent tutorial with good advice. I do not want to know what lurks on top of my cabinets! It may look even worse! I like the credit card tip! Good thinking!
    Please be sure to come back next week and link up with us again!

    1. I like another idea…sometimes I buy some cheap self sticking floor tile and put in my cupboards in place of paper.probably would work well for cupboard tops too Very.Easy to clean.

  29. Eww. Eww. Eww. You just made me really glad my cabinets go all the way to the ceiling. BUT I really need to do a deep clean on the cabinet doors. The idea to put down some kind of paper is BRILLIANT! Love it! If I ever have a house with open cabinet tops I will be doing that! Thanks for sharing via Family Fun Friday where you are one of this week’s features.

  30. I liked the comparison of the natural and chemical way of cleaning. I’m still not clear which required less elbow grease?! I want to do it the easy way!

  31. I’ve had success with the vinegar water cleaning solution as well. Good tip about scraping with the plastic credit card though! I pinned this 😉 Thanks for linking up at #smallvictoriessunday!

  32. The credit card works so much better than just scrubbing at it with a rag! I’m going to give it a whirl when I start scrubbing down the house next month. 🙂

  33. I’m so glad I’m not the only one with horrible looking cabinet tops! I use ammonia to clean my cabinets, though I haven’t tackled the top. I love your idea of laying paper down to keep the cleaned tops clean.

    Thanks for sharing your tip at Motivation Monday!

  34. The card is the key!! I know…we all have those places in our houses that we don’t want to admit or share. Thanks for being brave enough to share here, so we can all clean it up!! Great post!

  35. This is great! I moved recently and apparently the former people that lived here were big on frying food. Soooooo I’ve struggled with this. Thanks!

  36. I know how bad the top of cabinets can get so I try to do this every few months. I’m not getting any younger and it’s getting harder to get up there. When we finished our basement I had the kitchen cabinets go to the ceiling so I didn’t have two areas to deal with! Thanks for sharing your tips with SYC.

    1. Smart girl! I wish my cabinets went to the ceiling. I know how greasy it gets too, but I just hate cleaning up there because of how sticky it gets. Now that I found the trick with the credit card/plastic card, I won’t be avoiding it anymore. Plus, the paper should help a lot too.

  37. Fortunately my cabinets are attached to the ceiling so I haven’t had cabinet gunk! I think it is so smart to put paper up there. Much easier to clean!

    I do live in a very dusty place, and dust gets where you would least expect it. One day I looked up at the vent in my bathroom and was horrified at the dust/lint/God knows what crusted on the outside. I guess I don’t look up much! I tackled that bad boy with my vacuum.

    Thanks for sharing on Hump Day Happenings : )

  38. I did the same thing about a month ago, but I did not put paper down. Great idea and I will be doing that. Thank you for sharing them on our Four Seasons Blog Hop

    1. Shawna I think putting down the paper will save SO much time the next time you go up there. I want to buy some cheap plastic place mats and cut them to size and put them up there. That way I can just wash them in hot water/vinegar. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

  39. I like that vinegar and baking soda trick!

    Fortunately, my cabinets go all the way to the top. My house is over 80 years old, so I have plenty of dirt in other places. lol

    1. You’re so lucky, but I guess you’re right. You still have to clean the kitchen gunk off the front of the cabinets, but at least you can see it. I bet you’re 80yr old house is lovely…I love old houses. So much more character than new track homes.

  40. Hi Erlene! This was a timely post for me as you have seen my nasty renovation, lol. So what would you recommend for cleaning gunk off the front of cabinets? I think mine are veneered rather than polyurethaned. I would be worried about scraping them with a credit card but maybe that is better than scrubbing to death. I also tried some sort of orange cleaner. It left a residue and didn’t really clean anything off. Hugs, Rachel

    1. Honestly, I’ve tried the oil and baking soda trick seen on Pinterest for the front of cabinets and I hated it. The baking soda kept falling and making a mess all over the counters/floors. I would stick to a good commercial degreaser for a deep clean and then you can keep up with more natural methods of lemon or vinegar wipe down. Good luck.

  41. I love using vinegar and baking soda to clean. I haven’t looked at the top of our kitchen cabinets in a while, and am kinda scared too but definitely will after seeing this post! haha.Thanks for sharing at The Makers!

  42. Thanks for sharing this tip. I really kind of thought that layer was on there for good unless I wanted to strip the wood! This sounds so easy and I love the natural version. You have proven that you don’t need harsh chemicals to do a good job.

  43. Did you have a preference as to which way worked best?
    I can’t even remember the last time I went to see the tops of my cupboards but we must be talking 5 years at least (life is short, I have crafts to try!)
    Your paper over the newly cleaned surface is brilliant, when I do get to cleaning up there I will definitely be trying that. It will make my life much easier in another 5 years time!

    1. Well, there are pros/cons to both. Pro- I like the chemical method because you just spray right out of the bottle and scrape. Con- Since the cabinet tops are right at nose level, you risk breathing in all the over spray. It’s more costly to buy. As for the natural way – Pro- Don’t need to worry about chemicals. Cost very little money. Con- There are more steps and it takes more effort to wipe up the baking soda grit.
      Overall, I don’t really have a preference. Both ways work to clean the gunk off. Although, if I didn’t have a chemical cleaner, I would go the baking soda/vinegar route. However, if I wanted to be quick and fast, I would do the chemical route.

  44. Erlene, so glad I’m not the only one that peeks at the top of my cabinets and notices a gross horrendous mess! I did this a couple of months ago and it looked just like your pics lol! I use a grease remover spray and leave it on for a few minutes and then wipe down and go back over it with dish soap and water. I need to remember to do this monthly so it doesn’t get so bad but I probably won’t. I hadn’t thought of an old credit card as a scraper – good idea! Just stopping by. I was delinquent on looking at my twitter notices and stopped to check out your Monday (May 4th) party. Sorry I missed it.

    1. Yes a credit card or anything that’s sturdy enough to scrape the gunk off makes it SOOOO much easier than wiping. I’m going to check the paper in a month and see how this goes.

      The party is still open or you can link up to Tasty Tuesdays too 🙂